@AmericanRivers: Don’t let energy companies weaken clean water protections at hydropower dams

The generator building of Glen Canyon hydro power plant in Arizona via Wikimedia.

From American Rivers:

The hydropower industry is pushing a flurry of legislation that would create massive environmental exemptions for hydropower dam operations, taking us back to a time when dam owners could destroy rivers without concern.

If passed, the voices of local communities and people like you would be silenced when it comes to dam operations. We could see more dead fish, more dried up rivers, and degraded water quality on rivers and streams nationwide.

Under the guise of “modernizing” hydropower, these bills actually take hydropower dam operations back decades. They create giant loopholes for hydropower dam operators, so they can avoid requirements to protect fish, wildlife, or water quality. This is about whether states, tribes and citizens will continue to have a say in how dams are operated. It’s about the future of rivers nationwide.

This legislation could result in many more dried up rivers, dead fish and wildlife, and destroyed recreational opportunities. Tell Congress to oppose this power grab by the energy companies.

Click here to take action.

Three reasons for optimism about climate change — The Mountain Town News

Coyote Gulch’s Leaf connected in the parking garage in Winter Park, August 21, 2017.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Despite Trump, train has already left the station, says former Obama aide

U.S. President Donald Trump has initiated steps to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement and end the Clean Power Plan. But a former advisor to President Barack Obama was anything but gloomy recently as he cited three major reasons for optimism.

Brian Deese said one reason was that economic growth has been decoupled from growth in carbon emissions. This was discovered as the United States emerged from the recession. Obama was in Hawaii when Deese informed him of the paradigm shift that had been observed.

Brian Deese photo credit Wikipedia.com.

“I don’t believe you,” Obama said, according to the story Deese told in a forum on the University of Colorado campus that was sponsored by the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

Chastened, Deese double-checked his sources. He had been right. Always before, when the economy grew, so did greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the two have been decoupled. This decoupling blunts the old argument that you couldn’t have economic growth while tackling climate change. The new evidence is that you can have growth and reverse emissions.

The second reason for optimism, despite the U.S. exit from Paris, is that other countries have stepped up. Before, there was a battle between the developed countries, including the United States, and China, Indian and other still-developing countries. Those developing countries said they shouldn’t have to bear the same burden in emissions reductions.

But now, those same countries — Chna, India and others — want to keep going with emissions reductions even as the United States falters. They want to become the clean-energy superpowers.

“China, India and others are trying to become the global leaders in climate change. They see this as enhancing their economic and political interests,” he said. “They want to win the race.”

That same day, the Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page story that China plans to force automakers to accelerate production of electric vehicles by 2019. The move, said the newspaper, is the “latest signal that officials across the globe are determined to phase out traditional internal combustion engines that use gasoline and diesel fuels in favor of environmentally friendly vehicles powered by batteries, despite consumer reservations.”

The story went on to note that India has a goal to sell only electric vehicles by 2030 while the U.K. and France are aiming to end sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

In the telling of the change Deese said this shift came about at least partly as the result of an unintended action — and, ironically, one by the United States. Because of China’s fouled air, the U.S. embassy in Beijing and other diplomatic offices in China had installed air quality monitors, to guide U.S. personnel in decisions regarding their own health.

Enter the smart phone, which became ubiquitous in China around 2011 to 2012. The Chinese became aware of a simple app that could be downloaded to gain access to the air quality information. In a short time, he said, tens and then hundreds of millions of Chinese began agitating about addressing globalized air pollution, including emissions that are warming the climate.

A third reason for optimism, said Deese, is that Trump’s blustery rhetoric has galvanized support for addressing climate change. Some 1,700 businesses, including Vail Resorts, have committed to changes and 244 cities, representing 143 million people, have also said they want to briskly move toward renewable energy generation.

To this, Deese would like to add the conservation community, by which he seemed to mean hunters and fishermen. “In the United States, we need to reach people where they are, and communicate to them how they are being affected by climate change,” he said.

He also thinks scientists need to step up to advocate. “Use your voice,” said Deese, now a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The rest of the world is there.”

@USBR grant ($965,000) to Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association for hydro plant

Photo credit: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Construction could begin this year on upgrading the hydroelectric plant on the Colorado River near Palisade with a $965,000 federal grant.

The Bureau of Reclamation on Tuesday awarded the grant to the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association.

The grant is one of 43 WaterSmart grants made to agencies around the country and will help fund a $5.2 million project to replace and upgrade the turbines at the plant.

The turbines now in the plant are the original equipment installed in 1932, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District General Manager Max Schmidt said.

He decided to seek the grant last year after the plant was shut down and he inspected the turbines…

Better turbines will make it possible for the plant to generate 4.1 megawatts, or an expansion of 1.35 megawatts.

It also will allow for the plant to generate an additional 6,000 megawatt-hours.

The improvement and new power generation will maintain and protect the plant’s existing water right and help assure that there will be enough water in the Colorado River’s 15-mile reach for endangered fish, in particular the Colorado pike minnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub, the Colorado River District noted.

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

Southeastern Colorado Water inks agreement with Fountain and Fort Carson for hydro project

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the Pueblo Dam, signed an agreement last week allowing for the soon-to-be-built plant to connect to the dam, Chris Woodka, the district’s issues management program coordinator, said in a release.

The agreement was signed after the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved the creation of a military sales tariff on Tuesday. The tariff will cover costs for Colorado Springs Utilities to act as an intermediary, buying power from the district and selling it to Fort Carson.

With all the necessary agreements in place, the district hired Mountain States Hydro, LLC, to build the $19 million plant, Woodka said. Construction will begin in September and the plant should be operational by the spring.

Half of the electricity from the plant, estimated to be up to 7.5 megawatts, will be sold to Fort Carson and the other half will be sold to Fountain Utilities.

The plant is expected to generate about $1.4 million in revenue each year, Woodka said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

“This is a monumental moment in the history of the district,” said Jim Broderick, the district’s executive director. “We have been working to put all of the pieces in place since 2011. Now that this project is coming to fruition, it represents not only a sustainable income stream for our stakeholders, but develops a clean source of power for the future.”

Added Chris Woodka, the district’s issues management program coordinator, “The Lease of Power Privilege clears the way for the hydropower plant to connect to Pueblo Dam, a federally owned structure. Mike Ryan, director of the Great Plains Region for Reclamation, signed the lease Friday.”

In order to satisfy all federal requirements related to the project, members of the district have been working for the past 18 months to put a series of other agreements in place.

“The district has contracted with Mountain States Hydro, LLC, to build the plant,” Woodka said, “with construction to begin in September. It is scheduled to be completed during the fall and winter months when releases from Pueblo Dam generally decrease.”

It’s anticipated that the plant will be online by spring 2018.

The plant will cost about $19 million to build. Last year, the district secured a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with the district’s business enterprise providing matching funds.

Over time, those funds will be paid off by revenues from the sale of power.

For a decade, power from the plant will be purchased by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities for use at Fort Carson.

“After that, Fountain intends to purchase all of the power for at least 20 more years,” Woodka said.

The plant will generate up to 7.5 megawatts of power by using three turbines capable of producing power from 35 to 800 cubic feet per second of flow in the Arkansas River. Water will pass through a connection that was built into the service line for the Southern Delivery System, then into the Arkansas River.

Projections by district staff show that an average of 28 million kilowatt hours will be produced annually, with about $1.4 million in average revenue per year.

This money will be used to pay off the CWCB loan and to satisfy contractual agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as a carriage agreement with Black Hills Energy. All remaining funds will go to enterprise activities, including the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

@CSUutilities hydroelectric plant at Pueblo Reservoir will supply Fort Carson

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

A hydroelectric plant is planned for construction downstream from the Pueblo Dam to generate renewable energy for Fort Carson. Developers are just waiting for the signal to start building.

The plant would significantly increase the amount of renewable energy Fort Carson consumes, fitting with the post’s “Net Zero” goals of becoming more environmentally friendly.

The Colorado Springs Utilities board will consider adding a military sales tariff during its meeting Wednesday. The tariff would cover costs for Utilities to act as an intermediary, selling the power to Fort Carson after buying it from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which would build and operate the plant, said Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad.

Adding the tariff is the “last step” before the district can begin construction, said spokesman Chris Woodka.

“We’ve been ready to pull the trigger on this since January,” he said.

Currently, 8 percent of Fort Carson’s electricity is generated on-site through renewable sources such as solar panels, post spokeswoman Dani Johnson said. She could not say whether the post buys any renewable energy from off-site sources.

But Trinidad said Fort Carson does buy some renewable energy from Utilities. She could not say how much, citing customer privacy. The proposed hydroelectric deal would make up 7 percent of the post’s annual electricity purchase from Utilities, she said.

If the tariff is added, the proposal then will go before the City Council, consisting of the same members as the Utilities board, next month. If the council approves the move, construction on the plant can begin, Woodka said.

The plant would cost about $19 million, most of which comes from a loan the district took out, he said. In the years to come, energy sales are expected to cover the costs and eventually generate funds.

The plant’s construction will not have a financial impact on Utilities ratepayers, Trinidad said.

The plant is expected to generate up to 7.5 megawatts of electricity, Woodka said. Fort Carson will buy half of that, and Fountain Utilities will buy the other half.

The plant could be operational by May 2018, a peak time for generating hydroelectricity because of the high volume of water flowing from the Pueblo Dam, Woodka said.

Utilities then would buy the electricity, which will be transmitted onto its grid, and then sell it to Fort Carson without marking up the price, Trinidad said.

In the past, Fort Carson bought renewable wind energy through Utilities under short-term contracts, which have since expired, said Steve Carr, Utilities’ key account manager for Fort Carson. The pending hydroelectricity contract would last until the end of 2027.

HydroVision conference recap

Here’s a guest column from Bob Gallo writing in the Denver Business Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

While the groundwork to unlock hydropower’s full potential has been laid, there is much more left to be done. The manufacturers, developers, engineers, consultants, utility managers, and others who came to Denver last week certainly agreed.

Congress also agrees that hydropower should be an important part of the country’s energy future. Last year, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) nearly made it across the finish line before running out of time as Congress adjourned for the year. EPMA enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and contained many hydropower provisions long sought by the industry, including designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for licensing hydropower projects. These changes would reduce unnecessary delays and uncertainty.

Though that effort ultimately fell short, hydropower remains the one energy source that can narrow the massive chasm between the two political parties on energy. Just six months into the current legislative session, no less than 33 bills focused on hydropower have been introduced. Nearly every week, committees in the House and Senate are holding hearings or markups on hydro legislation. Republicans and Democrats alike are seeing the value in hydropower and exploring more ways to get this valuable energy source online.

This is particularly true for the Colorado delegation. Earlier this year, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, introduced legislation that would encourage pumped storage hydropower at U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facilities. Pumped storage is the only proven large-scale energy storage technology and should be utilized to a much greater extent than it is currently.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, recently sponsored a bill that would reauthorize a Department of Energy Waterpower program that provides funding to retrofit dams and river conduits with electricity. There are over 80,000 dams in the country, and only 3 percent produce power. These non-powered dams hold great promise for additional generation.

Rep. DeGette has continued her leadership on hydropower, co-sponsoring new legislation earlier this month that would reduce the timeframe for approval of conduit hydro projects on Bureau facilities. The Colorado Small Hydro Association estimates that these types of canals and conduits could power an additional 65,000 Colorado homes…

The hydropower licensing process is one major roadblock to increasing our current installed hydropower capacity from 100 gigawatts to 150 gigawatts by 2050 – a goal set forth in the Department of Energy’s 2016 Hydropower Vision report. By utilizing some of those tens of thousands of untapped dams in the U.S., boosting pumped storage, and efficiency upgrades at existing facilities, hydropower can be a big part of our energy future. According to an earlier report, Colorado alone could produce 3.8 gigawatts of additional hydropower.

There’s an important side benefit to hydropower: infrastructure investment and job creation.

#Colorado Dept. of Agriculture has funding for farm hydropower projects

Hydropower sprinkler system via Homelink Magazine

From the Colorado Department of Agriculture via The Fence Post:

The Colorado Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are seeking applicants for on-farm agricultural hydropower projects. The total amount of available assistance for this round is $1,200,000. The funding is available to Colorado agricultural irrigators with appropriate hydropower resources.

The funding is part of the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Within RCPP, the Colorado irrigation hydropower program provides funding to agricultural producers to help them add hydropower to new or existing irrigation systems.

“The program addresses water quantity, water quality and energy resource concerns,” said Sam Anderson, CDA’s energy specialist, “by helping farmers upgrade outdated and labor-intensive flood-irrigation systems to more efficient pressurized-irrigation systems using hydropower, or retrofit existing sprinkler systems with a hydropower component.

“Half a dozen projects have already been completed across Colorado, and this year we hope to fund more than a dozen new installations,” he said.

“This program helps farmers by putting their irrigation water to work, creating electricity that lowers their power bills,” Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown said. “We are very proud of this program and how it gives producers a way to cut their costs and use their resources efficiently.”

The overall hydro program is funded and assisted by 14 agencies and groups, collectively contributing $3 million to the effort for project funding and technical assistance for Colorado agricultural producers.

CDA is currently accepting applications for the next round of RCPP irrigation hydro projects. Applicants must be eligible to receive funding from the NRCS EQIP program. For more information and to submit an application, visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s ACRE3 hydropower website: http://www.colorado.gov/agconservation/hydro-navigation-guide or contact Sam Anderson at (303) 869-9044 or http://CDA_hydro@state.co.us. The application deadline is June 23, 2017.